custom decals - a helpful tip

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by nachoman, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. iis612

    iis612 Member

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    I am curious, if colors are not opaque but still transfer to clear decal sheets, would it show up against a darker, or lighter solid background (i.e. white decal color on a black tender)?
    Before I open this decal paper, thus making it non-refundable, perhaps someone could shed some light on this.
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I have used both the white and the clear decal paper. My experience says nothing will show up on the clear paper when placed on a dark background, except black. By dark, I meen green, blue, black, red... On light backgrounds such as light tan and light gray, most colors will show up except yellow. Yellow will show up, but some of the background color will show through.

    On white decal paper, almost any color will show up against the white backing. The only problem is that you must "fill" the border of your decal with your background color, otherwise you will have a white border around everything. The decals are opaque enough so that the background color does not show thru. In other words, if you wanted to letter a black tender, you would need white paper and print the negative of your lettering - i.e. the letters would be places where the printer doesn't print and the white paper shows through.

    Kevin
  3. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

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    Right, The blue boxcars in the background have orange letters but they show up as a light brown on the blue bodies because the letter weren't completely opaque on the clear Testor's decal sheets. The black hoppers have white letters made from white paper decal sheets with a black background from my printer. It took considerable weathering to cover the edges.

    [​IMG]
  4. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

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    Black letters on the Testor's clear paper come out pretty well and look OK on an orange box car.

    [​IMG]
    Ralph
  5. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I'll try to get some pic of my progress today. And maybe that will help illustrate things as I progress.

    Kevin
  6. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Here is my progress sofar. The decal has been applied, and dullcote has been sprayed over the decal. As you can see, the color match isn't that great. It looks a little better in person, but I think if I hid that thin white line around each decal with some paint, it would look much better.

    So, I tried masking off the letters so I could shoot some of the car color in order to hide the white line. Well, I learned never to apply tape over a decal, cause it will come off! I suppose i could find something else to mask with- or just use a small brush and a careful hand.

    Kevin

    Attached Files:

  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Kevin, how many of these cars are you planning to do? I admire your tenacity for trying to make your own decals, but it's not always possible to get the results that you want. There are detail parts for locomotives that I'd make myself, but for the most part, they're not up to the standards that I set for myself, so I end up buying them instead. You could use commercially available alphabet sets, either decals or dry transfers, to do this job and, in the end, be more satisfied with the results. And you'd still be satisfied knowing that you gave it a good shot at trying to make your own.
    I've lettered over 70 passenger cars using alphabets sets, usually dry transfers, and that's for cars with "Elora Gorge & Eastern" spelled out in the letterboards. Time consuming? Certainly, but there's a source of pride in that, too.

    Wayne
  8. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Here's the latest- I hid the edge of the decal using the same color paint as I used on the car side. I applied this paint with a small brush. I then did light weathering using a mist of thinned dark gray paint. Next, I sprayed dullcote.

    I am pleased with the way they turned out. Now to complete the painting of the underframes, put in windows, and let them roll down the track!

    Kevin

    Attached Files:

  9. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    A big improvement, Kevin. :thumb:

    Wayne
  10. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

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    That looks good!
    Ralph
  11. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

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    Art Decko's suggestion of printing a test strip is the only way to find an accurate colour match.

    Inkjet printers use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink (CMYK) on paper. Most jpg images are RGB (red, green blue) which is composed of light - not ink - shining from your computer screen. In technical terms ink is reflective (reflects light) and RGB is transmissive (transmits light).

    Your RGB colour swatches are like apples while your CMYK printer gives you oranges. No wonder they don't match. :D

    You need to convert your colour swatches to CMYK first, using a program like Photoshop. Then use the eyedropper tool to sample the colour, which will tell you its component amounts of each colour.

    Let's say for the sake of argument that the colour sampled is the following:
    Cyan: 100
    Magenta: 0
    Yellow: 100
    Black: 20

    Now make a Photoshop (or Illustrator) file with several coloured boxes about an inch square. Box #1 will be exactly the colours that you've sampled.

    Box #2 might be:
    C: 100
    Y: 100
    K: 30

    Box #3 might be:
    C: 100
    Y: 90
    K: 20

    etc.

    The paper (or substrate) you use will also affect the colour, that's why you need to do this test on the actual decal material.

    Ink (espacially inkjet ink which is water-based) soaks into paper. When it does, the colour is less bright, because there's less ink on the surface reflecting light. Photo paper is coated to prevent ink absorption. Colours look brighter. Decal "paper" is also impervious to ink, so again, colours will look brighter.

    Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that not every colour can be achieved through a mix of CMYK. Some simply cannot be duplicated, such as metallics, neon or flourescents, and some of the brighter oranges and purples.

    Looking at your car colour though I think you should be able to match the colour with CMYK.

    If that proves to be too much trouble, then perhaps you should go a different route and order some custom decals with just the lettering. Real (as opposed to homemade) decals use opaque ink, so they can print white or yellow onto a clear substrate without the problem of show-through.

    I hope this helps. I've been a graphic artist all my life and colour matching is a major issue in that field.

    cheers
    Val
  12. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

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    No, lighter colour will not show up on a darker background because the colour is not opaque, which means the colour behind will show through. Take a piece of black paper. Now take a red marker pen. Draw a line. Is is red? No, it simply makes the black darker.

    As I said in my previous post, the decals we make at home using our inkjet printers are not the same as the kind produced professionally. Inkjet colour is water-based. Professional decals are made of opaque, latex-based inks. Nothing shows through.

    To get lighter colours you have to print on white decal paper - there's just no alternative. White lettering has to be surrounded by a colour that matches the background colour, unless you want to cut out each letter by hand!

    Another solution might be to give the whole thing an outline the same colour as the letters, and then cut around that. You could even make the colour inside the outline totally different from the background, especially on a freelanced road.

    Val

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  13. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    EXCELLENT info an tips there, Val. I think you pretty much nailed the issue here, and reinforced that color matching is difficult at best. The suggestions in your second email are a great alternative.

    I would get custom decal sheets made, but, I literally have two passenger cars to letter and can't justify ordering a minimum of 25 sheets. I could use individual letter sets, but that is frustrating. My goal was to develop techniques that may help others out in the future. Right now, I have results that I am quite pleased with, but your tips will certainly help myself and others out with future projects.

    Kevin
  14. iis612

    iis612 Member

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    Thanks to Val, Kevin and Wayne for shedding light on my question.
    Now then...did someone say "custom decals"?
    Does anyone know where I could get some made?

    Matt
  15. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

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    HI,Val ! Thanks for the non-opaque info. Is this why the "ALPS" printers are so capable?(IF you can find one, and materials). Would special "Photo" inks,as used in some photo printers,be any beter for a like situation, as they're meant to adhere to "glossy" media?Thanks. Bob C.
  16. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

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    If you go to the link in my signature and then click on the "Details" page you will find several sources for decals. :wave: